Bennett unveils ‘supertanker’ to fight online antisemitism

Cyber Monitoring System provides real-time interactive maps of online antisemitic activity.

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January 25, 2018 23:42
3 minute read.
Bennett unveils ‘supertanker’ to fight online antisemitism

DIASPORA AFFAIRS MINISTER Naftali Bennett explains how the Antisemitism Cyber Monitoring System detects antisemitic online content, January 25, 2018. (photo credit: DIASPORA AFFAIRS MINISTRY)

 
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Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett unveiled a new tool on Thursday developed by his ministry to track online antisemitism the world over.

The ministry has been developing the tool, the Antisemitism Cyber Monitoring System, in collaboration with the Defense Ministry for over a year.

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The system provides real-time interactive maps showing antisemitic activity, and can display and dissect information based on geography, language and dates, among other factors.

“This is a very exciting day,” Bennett told journalists at a press conference held in Tel Aviv. “For the first time, we are launching a global online system to scope antisemitism in the entire world. You might call it a supertanker to deal with antisemitism online.”

The ministry timed the launch of the system just ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” Bennett said. “From today every antisemite online should know he is exposed, the hatred he spreads is being watched and he will be held responsible. It’s time to set a mirror in front of our enemies and expose the ugly face of the modern antisemite, he who tweets Swastikas instead of branding them in the street. From now we will know who the leading antisemites are and they will be dealt with.

“Antisemitism hasn’t vanished, it has shifted shape and moved from the street to the web,” he added. “Especially during the week we commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we must turn the spotlight to the places from which antisemitism stems and spreads, as part of the mutual responsibility Jews have for one another.”

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While the platform is not an open source, the minister said relevant parties may request access to the data and their requests will be granted so long as they are not deemed to have harmful agendas.

A significant portion of the findings, however, will be made public on a regular basis with reports that highlight the most active online antisemites and the cities with the highest concentrations of antisemitic cyber activity.

The system uses the working definition of antisemitism adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and monitors English, French, German and Arabic posts on Twitter and Facebook, though it will expand to additional languages and online platforms.

“We are making a distinction between legitimate criticism of Israel [and antisemitism],” Bennett stressed in response to a question posed to him during the press conference. “This system does not deal with critique of Israel, we are talking about antisemitism and sometimes that is under a cloak of anti-Israeliness.”

During the period of a month, when the Antisemitism Cyber Monitoring System was operating in a pilot mode, it monitored and analyzed 409,000 antisemitic posts and tweets written by 30,000 people.

Every day some 200,000 suspected posts and tweets were scanned by the system. Ten-thousand antisemitic posts and tweets were found on a daily basis. The margin of error is currently 10% but the ministry stressed that it was previously higher and it is working to bring it down.

Other findings the ministry highlighted from the pilot test was that Santiago in Chile, Dnipro in the Ukraine and Bucharest in Romania are the cities in which the most antisemitic content is being disseminated online, while in the West, Paris and London are currently the biggest culprits. The system also found that on December 6, following US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, online antisemitism grew nine-fold compared to previous days.

In addition to the software, the Diaspora Affairs Ministry has established a command center, manned by experts who receive the data from the system and present it to the ministry.

The ministry will use the data in its work with the authorities in other countries in order to take concrete steps against those spreading hate.

“We all have a job here,” Bennett said, emphasizing that governments, local leaderships, the media and Internet companies must play a role in combating antisemitism.

He accused Facebook and Twitter of not fighting antisemitism with the same force as they have tackled other issues.

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